- The CQC has suspended inspections during the COVID-19 crisis to avoid unnecessary pressure on care providers at this time.
- The CQC has announced that its current review into the use of restrictive interventions, including restraint, segregation and seclusion in hospitals and care homes across England has been suspended during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The CQC, have introduced emergency changes to the way that new registrations are dealt with during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Care regulator suspends inspections during COVID-19 crisis
In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which hit the UK during March putting health and social care systems under enormous pressure, the Care Quality Commission has announced that it will be stopping routine inspections during the crisis. The CQC has written to all providers and has stated that its primary objectives during the pandemic will to be to support services.
In their letter the CQC encourage everyone to “act in the best interests of the health of the people they serve” with the top priority the protection of life.
The CQC state that it may be necessary to use some of its inspection powers during the crisis in a very small number of cases, for instance, when it has concerns about harm such as allegations of abuse. However, routine inspections will not be conducted in their present form.
The CQC say that:
- Inspectors will continue to request Provider Information Returns (PIRs), however, they will not penalise providers for the late return of PIRs.
- In order to reduce reporting burdens inspectors will share the information they collect with local authorities and clinical commissioning groups.
- The information gathered from PIRs will be used to inform and influence government and commissioners to provide support and address issues such as workforce challenges.
The Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care has confirmed that there will be no changes in the requirements for providers to make notifications to the CQC. Neither will there be changes to the system used to make them. Providers should notify the CQC of deaths and of events that stop them from carrying on their service ‘safely and properly’ (regulation 18). This will mean letting inspectors know if the service has been negatively affected by COVID-19. However, it does not mean that inspectors need to be notified of every single COVID-19 related issue or of all cases of COVID-19 infection.
Inspectors will be adapting their regulatory function and will hope to provide more support for registered providers and managers. Providers are asked to contact them if they have specific concerns.
CQC delay restraint, segregation and seclusion review
The CQC has announced that certain workstreams will be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes its current review into the use of restrictive interventions, including restraint, segregation and seclusion in hospitals and care homes across England.
In May last year the CQC published an interim report into this project which highlighted serious problems into system, particularly for people with a learning disability, or mental health condition and autistic people. Since then the regulator states that its inspectors have visited and collected information from over 400 social care providers about restrictive practices. However, the CQC reports that the restrictions caused by the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus across the UK means that this work can no longer be finished on time.
Rather than rushing the important next stages, which would not do justice to such an important piece of work, the CQC have decided to put the project on hold for now and return to it when possible.
In the meantime the CQC encourage service users, their families and those working across the health and social care system to continue to raise any concerns directly through the Give Feedback on Care service at https://www.cqc.org.uk/give-feedback-on-care.
Special COVID-19 registration framework introduced
The care regulator, the CQC, have introduced emergency changes to the way that new registrations are dealt with during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inspectors are aware that adult social care providers are trying to establish more capacity so that they can help relieve pressure on the NHS. This may include establishing new services which will require registration with the CQC.
To help ensure that registration does not act as a barrier to different ways of working, the CQC have developed a special COVID-19 registration framework for providers responding to Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) or Clinical Commissioning Group contingency planning. This framework covers both new registrations and changes to service that can be made by submitting a notification online.
CQC explain that a COVID-19 registration is any ‘application’ from a health or social care provider where they:
- intend to deliver services which provide additional health and social care capacity in an area or
- contribute to the control of the outbreak of COVID-19 or the treatment of people who have contracted the illness.
The CQC state that they expect that most changes will be able to be made by submitting a notification online and changing the statement of purpose. This means that changes can be made as soon as the CQC is notified, meaning no delays.
Other changes may need a provider to change its existing registration. In these cases an application will need to be submitted. All applications relating to COVID-19 will be prioritized and in urgent cases, for example to increase existing capacity, inspectors say that they can assess an application at the same time as the changes are made.
Further details of the change to the registration process can be found on the CQC website at https://www.cqc.org.uk/guidance-providers/registration/covid-19-registrations.
The website includes links to the appropriate application forms and examples to help providers determine whether they need to make an application.
About the author
Martin Hodgson RMN, BSc, MSc, PGCEA, is a community psychiatric nurse and a psychology graduate by background, Martin has had a long career working as a senior manager in various health agencies, initially to do with mental health and latterly to do with primary and community care.